Joseph Pilates was a physical fitness genius whose work has come into general awareness only in the last fifteen years or so ago, although he lived and worked in New York City for about forty years.
His basic story is that he was a sickly child who studied anatomy and such physical disciplines as yoga (though it’d be interesting to learn how he learned about yoga — it certainly wasn’t common knowledge in the West in the late 1800s. Did some pioneer write a book on yoga then in German, even though India was an English colony?
It’s not so difficult to understand how he learned the physical culture secrets of Western disciplines since his mother was a naturopath and his father a gymnast. Although the standard short form of his biography doesn’t say any more than this about them, they must have helped their child, though he deserves lots of credit for his own studies of anatomy and exercising himself to health.
While interned by the English government on the Isle of Man during World War I (because he was a German national), he began his career of designing equipment to help correct people’s physical malfunctions. He improvised makeshift contraptions to help his fellow interns.
After starting his studio in New York City, he was discovered by a troupe of dancers based in the same building. Word quickly spread of how he could help injured dancers, and his fans included Martha Graham and George Ballanchine.
Pilates is uniquely suited for dancers because of its emphasis on flexibility as well as strength. And especially because it requires a graceful, functional transition from one exercise to the next. A Pilates student works for flow, to go from one movement to the next without a suddenly break to return to clumsiness.
However, Pilates himself was not a dancer and the benefits of Pilates are not confined to dancers.
The benefit of STANDING PILATES is that it does away with the equipment and a lot of the complication of Pilates. You can do Pilates any place you can stand up (it’s recommended to have a wall for support). Though she does start off with a chapter on Classical Mat exercises.
She developed her standing Pilates program because she noticed that some Pilates students got good results from lying on a mat — but when they stood up they reverted to their old habits of poor posture. She wants your body to function in a smooth, healthy fashion throughout your daily life — which includes standing up a lot more than lying down.
Standing Pilates is especially good for older people, because doing weight-bearing exercises can help control or prevent osteoporosis. And she includes an appendix on this condition.
The major of the book consists of the standing exercises with pictures and descriptions.